Archives for category: BBC

For so many reasons, 2015 was a watershed year for Turner Hopkins. It’s certainly been an enormously busy one, and one inevitable consequence of that has been that we’ve not been posting here as regularly as we’d previously done. A couple of years back we might have panicked a little about that; after all, a strong social media presence and an active blog are surely part of the toolkit for self-respecting digital media specialists, right? Too true, but we’ve come to cut ourselves a little slack on the issue, and accepted that living through interesting times often means you don’t have much time – or energy – to write about them. We’ve also been spending more time communicating through our newsletters – which if nothing else puts us on-trend! Anyway, enough post-rationalising, and on with the review.

It’ll be more than apparent to regular visitors here that Angel Academe, in all its guises, has been the dominant force in our lives for the last year. Here’s the 2015 round-up Sarah included in her most recent AA newsletter:


Wow, what a year! We’ve made 7 investments with several other deals in the pipeline. The amount raised so far this year is nearly double our 2014 total and from double the number of investors. Many of the women and men investing were making their first angel investment, so congratulations to them as well as everyone else taking part. 

We received and reviewed well over 500 applications to pitch to us this year from a very wide range of women-led technology businesses: from big data to healthtech, fintech and ecommerce. Of these, 15 passed our 3-stage screening process and then pitched at one of our “Studio” events attended by more than 80 angelinvestors over the course of the year.

We also ran 2 Investor Academe sessions, our half day investing workshops, with 25 of our angels as well as bite-sized Tax and Legal Academes prior to the last 2 Studio events.

Our second Entrepreneur Academe cohort has just graduated, taking the number of women founders we’ve mentored to over 50. We ran 12 mentoring sessions this year and, now that the City of London has confirmed sponsorship for next year, we’re in planning mode for 2016. 

In the summer we were honoured to received the UKBAA’s Angel Syndicate of the Year and last month we picked up Funder of the Year in the TechCities Awards.

But it’s not all been about Angel Academe, as we continued our broader-based strategic work for a range of both new and returning clients. Here are some highlights.

The BBC Academy invited Simon to curate two whole days of workshops for the organisation’s leadership, looking at various aspects of the digital landscape. We took on a pretty wide perspective, looking at issues as diverse as managing teams through disruption, “intrapreneurship”, new ways of conceiving and delivering concepts and the role of data in content personalisation and recommendation. We were particularly pleased to able to draw on our wider network to bring new faces into to the BBC, including Friday’s Anno Mitchell, Ramona Liberoff and Abundance Generation’s Louise Wilson. Our thanks to everyone who gave up their timely freely to make these days so successful.

As part of the sessions, Simon delivered a two-hour masterclass looking at his pet topic of the last few years (one which he’s since reprised for the BBC College of Journalism): how to become more personally and professionally effective in the face of potentially constant digital distraction. The sessions mixed theory with practical application and were of course highly interactive, and it’s fascinating to see the degree to which many highly experienced, capable and often brilliant people are really struggling to avoid distraction in their work.

We continued our ongoing relationships with several governmental groups, including UKTI, Innovate UK and the KTN, with work ranging from inward investment to funding competition design and general research. And of course, we continued to work with various other areas of the BBC, including the Market Engagement Team, for whom we delivered a set of detailed case studies.

We were also delighted to hook up with a couple of old friends and former colleagues.

Simon and Marc Jaffrey, OBE, worked together a decade and a half back at the BBC. A genuine polymath, Marc is currently consulting on a fascinating project running in our home town of Brighton and Hove. Our Future City is looking at the impact of education and the arts on young people in the city and kicked off the year with a series of workshops mapping out the terrain. Marc asked Simon to come along and provide a “provocation”; the result was a 20-minute tirade outlining his worries about young people and technology. You can read Simon’s presentation in full here – if nothing else it really was a provocation. In any case, we’re delighted to say that we’re continuing to work on the programme in 2106.

It was also good to be working once again with the pioneering British internet outfit state51, on whose behalf Simon attended Forum Europe‘s Future of Digital Content and Services conference in Brussels.

We’ve read a lot between us over the year, but a handful of books stand out with regard to digital technology:

We continue to get most of our news from two principal sources (ones with mercifully international perspectives): The Economist and The BBC World Service. But of course the podcast continues its inexorable rise and rise and several have been mainstays for us over the last year, including:

And finally, cultural highlights of the year have included Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne, Brecht and Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the ROH, Purcell’s Indian Queen at the ENO, and three standout visual art shows: Magnificent Obsessions a the Barbican, The World Goes Pop at the Tate and Joseph Cornell – Wanderlust at the V&A. And we’ve been delighted to witness the thriving of Jazz in the Round, the monthly show put on at the Cockpit in Marylebone by our good friends at Jazz on 3.

So that’s been our 2015. We wish everyone a thriving, prosperous 2016 and look forward to seeing many of you throughout the year.

Sarah and Simon



Monday July 6th saw the second of this year’s external supplier briefings from BBC Online, with the first being held in Salford on June 17th and featuring similar content*. This event, hosted in inimitable style by Connected Studio’s Robin Cramp, was a more intimate affair than previous briefings, held not at the BBC Radio Theatre but at the storied Whitechapel Gallery in London’s East End. As a consequence the event seemed to me a much more interactive day all round.

The first of the afternoon’s presentations was from Holly Goodier, the Director of BBC Marketing & Audiences, whom I’d seen just a couple of weeks previously at the BBC Leadership “Digital Playlist” event I’d helped organise for the BBC Academy (and which, yes, I need to get round to writing up…) Holly’s presentation was entitled “The Emotional Web”, and charted the web’s move from purely functional to increasingly, well, emotional – and talked through BBC Online’s response to this shift. She identified several key themes:

Personal, not just personalised Speaks for itself, really, but the watch words here are intimacy and authenticity. (She cited women discussing their morning routines on YouTube, a fitting meme, I thought.)

Conversation Nation The 1,9,90 model long regarded as the paradigm for participation levels online has changed dramatically; up to 77% of online users are now active participants, although that of course ranges from full-time vloggers to people simply posting Facebook updates. The challenge for the BBC, Holly said, is to make content that is inherently social.

“The Zone of Disappointment” Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I pricked up my ears at this one, as Holly reminded us that it’s not all unicorns and rainbows out there, and that the BBC’s online work exists in an ecosystem that includes bullying, trolling and public humiliation. (Shameless plug: my post “Technology and the Young” addresses some of these points and my overall concern for millennials – and those who follow them.)

“Hooks” Yes, utility and function are still essential for the web’s users, but the balance between function and emotion online skews very differently for the under 35s; I’ll let you guess which way.

Holly returned to her opening remarks, that BBC Online was about bringing the nation together. Yes that could be the Olympics or Wimbledon or global new events, but it could be Bitesize, too. What remains essential is that everything BBC Online does – in keeping with the overall organisational mantra “audiences are at the heart of everything we do” – should be life-enhancing in some way or other.

Next up was Paul Crowley, the Head of User Experience and Design (UX&D). The BBC’s Director General Sir Tony Hall has said that the BBC should be “Internet First”; Paul talked about how the BBC’s Global Experience Language or GEL needed to be re-thought to reflect this.

To illustrate what “Internet First” might actually mean, he gave some examples of (relatively) recently launched services: BBC Taster (more of this later), the iWonder Guides, and BBC Live (a platform for multi-headed live events like Wimbledon and Glastonbury that builds on the legacy of BBC Online’s groundbreaking Olympics coverage). And yet, Paul said, things were only just getting started.

So here was the question for the GEL: what is the role of consistency among such proliferating services? And how could the GEL allow more and more stuff to be done with less and less resource? The key was to think less about things looking the same and more about them working the same way – providing consistency in terms of functionality and allowing greater levels of re-use. He drew interesting parallels with the development of the UK’s national electricity grid in the 30s which might seem grandiose until one considers that is currently receiving a staggering 35 million unique visits per day.

Paul concluded by talking about the creation of the UX&D roster, which has seen 7 suppliers (from a pool of 270 applicants) chosen to each work with a specific BBC Product area, allowing for a much more “productive, effective relationship” between both parties. More on the roster later.

After a short lunch break, attendees were invited to join either a “technical” or “editorial/procurement” break out. I attended the latter – no surprise there – but for the record, the former included talks by Roux Joubert (General Manager, Platform), Chris Yanda (Executive Product Manager, TV & Mobile Platforms) and David Buckhurst (Technical Architect, Platform Test).

Upstairs, the afternoon kicked off with an excellent presentation from Damian Kavanagh, the Controller of BBC3. Much has been written about BBC3’s proposed move to online only, which has just been approved, provisionally, by the BBC Trust. Whatever the drivers for the move are, Kavanagh made a clear argument for its strategic sense.

In terms of content, the channel will continue to build on “what is already great about it”, concentrating on two strands: “make me laugh” (scripted comedy) and “make me think” (hard hitting documentaries). There will be no formatted factual, no panel shows, no talent shows, no (or very few) acquisitions and, of course, no repeats. Indeed, this last point is key; an on-demand only channel avoids the need to fill hours and hours of schedule.

Addressing the question of whether the move was “ghetto-ising young people”, Kavanagh made the point that the network was simply moving to where the young people already are. In that sense, the young are “ghetto-ising themselves”. He also pointed out that to some extent this was already happening, citing a short film about transgenderism that they posted on Facebook and went viral.

Given that the room was full of digital media creatives and salespeople, the question of long- vs short-form video was one I felt keenly anticipated by many. I suspect he may have disappointed some by saying that initially the ratio would be 80-20 (long-short). But Kavanagh pointed out that this was vastly more than the industry standard (about 0.05% short-form) and that in any case, this was a merely the starting point – the amount of short form would undoubtedly increase over the years.

He finished with the observation that the channel – which will be a pathfinder for the rest of the organisation in this move to online-only – was already learning a great deal from the digital sector, not least in terms of collaborative working, often a sharp contrast to traditional ways of making TV.

Jon Howard is an Executive Product Manager, Digital Creativity. I was lucky enough to meet Jon a few months ago and was fascinated then by the work his team is doing. He started by saying that Tony Hall wanted the BBC to help inspire a new generation to “become creative with code”. For some this might simply mean teaching kids to code but Jon believes that this needn’t always be the case, and is interested in developing light-weight tools for kids to use in creating their own content, games and services, aping the direction in which much of the creative industries has moved.

He showcased a game-building platform for 8-12 year-olds, indeed, did a live demo, always a risky gambit! His team associated the tool with the Sunday morning kids’ show Technobabble (“the smallest brand on the BBC”) and they’d been delighted with the tool’s uptake. Particularly interesting was how the service faired after the show went off-air. The usage figures of a traditional game would plummet when on-air promotion stopped. However, although usage did dip, it maintained a healthy user base with kids building and sharing games by the thousands for weeks after tx.

The final session of the breakout came from the excellent Maureen Gore, giving what will sadly be her BBC swansong. Maureen was to talk about procurement generally and specifically the performance to date of the Digital Services Framework – a dry subject to be sure, but one Maureen always manages to bring to life.

The DSF is currently in the middle of its second iteration; a third will be announced in Q3 this year. I won’t go into great detail about the process here; instead you can get the full run down on the BBC procurement site or else drop a line to

But the headlines for DSF II were certainly encouraging with 299 agencies making the final cut. An initial fear of Maureen’s was that once ITT’s had been matched to agencies’ declared capabilities, they were often going out to 40-50 companies. But in general, of these only around 6 or 7 were responding, suggesting that agencies were being realistic about their capacity to deliver. Finally, something in the region of £4m was spent with agencies on DSF 1.

The final plenary session of the day covered an old favourite of this blog, Connected Studio, the open innovation initiative, and its sister website BBC TasterAdrian Woolard, Head of CS, gave us a run-down of the initiative’s performance so far, and it’s an impressive one: 103 events, the involvement of 2792 participants and 458 companies, 821 ideas generated, 41 pilots and 50 more pilots in the pipeline. Adrian was particularly proud of delivering two projects in collaboration with the World Service in Nairobi and Cape Town.

 Eleni Sharp and Will Saunders then introduced BBC Taster, a groundbreaking area of for experimental projects – “a home for new ideas”. It’s impossible to overstate how important this is for the BBC; the understandable expectation of it delivering perfectly working products and services can by an impediment to innovation, where a certain degree of risk is essential. Taster allows for experimentation in a discrete environment, and has worked with most areas of the BBC, including Arts, Radio 1 and Drama; so far it’s generated an impressive 3.5 million page views.

They showcased three Taster projects: R1OT (a social media visualisation tool developed for Radio 1), Your Story (BBC News archival content tagged to your Facebook timeline) and I Am Smarter Than… (a personalised quiz).

Adrian finished off by talking about Connected Studio’s future, which would include more work with BBC Labs, more calls across different themes (and not necessarily broken down by “Product”) and work on immersive tech. Significantly, the early stages of the process will be carried out online rather than at events. As fans of the open innovation process and as a consultancy keen to see large and small companies work together for mutual benefit, we’ll be watching closely.

Naturally the day ended with some networking and the chance to catch up with some old friends. I’ll leave you with this thought. This has been a tough couple of weeks for the BBC, with the government’s sideswipes taken at the corporation increasingly ludicrous – yet nonetheless deeply worrying. Today’s session – as I say, a less state-of-the-nation event than previous ones and more generally down and dirty – left me in no doubt that BBC Online’s work is essential to the health innovation in UK media. My thanks to the Market Engagement team for inviting me down and congratulations to Jake Bailey in particular for pulling off such a packed, but slickly run event.


*Videos from Salford are going to be available from next week; I’ll tweet when they go live.

On Friday December 12th, at Broadcasting House’s Radio Theatre, the BBC held their first “On the Beat” event, aimed at debating the future of music and technology. Given the hugely innovative work the BBC does in this area it’s perhaps odd that they’ve never held an event like this before, but I have to say it was a a highly engaging, thoroughly enjoyable day.

The event was hosted by LJ Rich, who hosts the BBC technology show Click – and who turned out to be a nifty pianist to boot.

The day was introduced by James Purnell, BBC Director of Strategy and Digital, who pulled some anecdotes out of Asa Briggs’ history of the BBC, especially about the BBC’s first chief engineer Peter Eckersley, who was arguably the country’s first DJ, playing gramophone records over the air. Purnell’s point was a clear one: that the coming together of music and cutting edge tech is in the organisation’s DNA.

The day’s keynote was given by Mark Mulligan, a veteran commentator on the impact of digital technology on the music industry. He gave a fairly riproaring history of music and tech over the last 21 years, pulling out the salient points about where we are now – “an age of unprecedented change and uncertainty”. With scarcity essentially killed off by Napster a decade and a half ago, it’s essential that the industry finds some other value, and for Mulligan this is fan engagement – “the most important currency”.

He also introduced what would turn out to be one of the major themes – “the tyranny of choice” – and finished on the note that the cinemas had consistently lost money until the introduction of popcorn. What was the music industry’s popcorn?

Mulligan was followed by a panel discussion about audience’s engagement with tech, featuring 1Xtra presenter, rapper and entrepreneur Charlie Sloth, Radio 2 and 6Music’s Head of Music Jeff Smith and Shazam’s VP of Product for Music and Platforms Cait O’Riordan. It was a fun discussion, with Sloth in particular telling it pretty frankly about media consumption by anyone under 25: “YouTube has changed the game”, “everything is consumed on on mobile”, “no-one watches TV” and (my favourite) “I’ve got a 10 grand home cinema but the kids don’t use it”. All salutory stuff, I think.

Smith’s presentation was, of course, about an entirely different demographic, the Radio 2 audience. For them, interestingly, digital is all about TV – that is, the closer media resembles TV in terms of functionality the more successful it is. It’s one of the reasons they’ve had quite so much success with red button live music shows: ELO in Hyde Park scored 1.2 million views for instance.

O’Riordan gave a fascinating presentation about the analysis of Shazam stats, discussing the relationship between Shazam acitivity, streams and radio play. She also talked through some changes to the Shazam offering, including a newly launched website, a news service and the sharing of Shazams. Clearly the company is at least in part positioning itself more as a content destination.

There was a lengthy Q&A with some really interesting points made. Smith made the observation that “radio has always been good at knowing the audience,” which I think is spot on. He also pointed out that for his audience, the connected home was definitely becoming “less scary”. But my favourite observation again cam from Sloth, who responded to the question “Won’t the now, now, now generation eventually settle into laziness and seek out the familiar?” “No,” he said, “It will only get worse.”

The second session of the afternoon was all about music metadata, which regular readers will know is a hobbyhorse of mine; the session featured Tom Allen from Metable, Brittney Bean, Songdrop CEO, Nicholas Humfrey from BBC R&M Online and Robert Kaye from MusicBrainz. The discussion covered a lot of ground; I was taken with some of the following observations:

  • Crappy metadata means people don’t get paid.
  • It’s difficult to get good metadata from the record labels Why? Well for one thing, said Kaye, the record industry simply “doesn’t trust these metadata hippies”.
  • For Music Brainz, it’s all about “what the artist intended” – and they go out of their way to ascertain this.
  • The publishing industry had made ISBNs work; why couldn’t the record industry make ISRC codes work?
  • Oh and for new bands, Google your band name choices before making any decisions!

The final panel of the afternoon was all about music discovery and featured Radio 1 and 1 Xtra’s Head of Music George Ergatoudis, Henry Firth, founder of Ping Tune (“The Human Music Network”) and Spotify’s Director of  Economics Will Page, each giving a brief presentation before settling into a discussion and Q&A. Some of the more interesting points included:

  • Streaming had reached a real watershed this year, with Meghan Trainor getting into the top 40 on streams only.
  • There’s a general sense that we’re “drowning in music”. Well-crafted, presenter-led radio can really help with this.
  • Indeed, despite all the tech, a recent Nielsen Music 360 report put radio a still the #1 route for music discoevery.
  • It’s all too easy for those of us involved in this to assume that services are more mainstream than they are; Soundcloud, for instance, as huge as it is, is still ultimately a niche service.

Along the way, reminding us that this is, after all, all about music, we had performances from two BBC Introducing artists, Sam Sure and LAYLA*.

So as I said at the top, this was a stimulating afternoon and I very much hope the first of an annual series.


* A great example of a music metadata conundrum in action – is she all in CAPITALs as per her facebook page or not?!

On November 12 I attended a fascinating evening hosted by Christies looking at the future of arts journalism, the second such event over the last few years, it turned out. I confess that a few weeks have passed but I’ve finally got around to writing up some notes I took during this discussion and the audience Q&A that followed. This isn’t a comprehensive report from the session but hopefully it captures the main points and tenor of the discussion. If anyone who was there thinks I missed anything salient do get in touch. So then…

The panel comprised: Will Gompertz, the BBC’s arts editor; FT arts editor Jan Dalley; our good friend Leonora Thomson, the Barbican Centre’s Director of Audiences & Development; and Richard Morrison, senior Arts Correspondent for The Times. The panel was hosted someone who’s strictly outside the arts world but who’s nonetheless very familiar with the challenges to journalism across the board, Roy Greenslade, media commentator for The Guardian and City University’s Professor of Journalism.

The discussion kicked off with 5 minutes or so of personal introduction and general observations from each of the panellists. Richard Morrison is something of a veteran, having worked under no less than 8 editors at The Times and having lived through the Wapping dispute. Indeed, he ended up writing about the arts because of departmental sackings. He confessed from the start that “no newspaper would close because it stopped covering the arts” (a sobering thought). He briefly mentioned arts blogs, saying that while there were definitely issues there, they had definitely opened up the debate around the arts generally. (We would return to this quite a lot.)

Dalley opened with the idea that the relationship between the arts world and journalism is an essential one – I think in both senses of the word. She agreed that blogs demonstrate a widespread “lively engagement with the arts” but thought that the standards just weren’t high enough. That said, she thought this was to some extent the case in mainstream journalism too, with some real failings in training.

Thomson said that without doubt everything had changed over the last few years, but agreed with Dalley that the arts/press relationship remained hugely important. Moreover, there’s so much arts activity in the modern world that journalists have a responsibility to curate it for the public. She also made the intriguing early remark that quite a number of established critics were struggling to find a way to discuss “digital creativity”. In parallel with this, arts PR people struggle to keep pace with social media developments.

She also pointed to two wider issues: that social media (and all media for that matter) are increasingly obsessed with celebrity culture and that the crisis in arts journalism reflected the wider position of arts in the culture (her observations that politicians seem almost embarrassed to be at arts events raised a chuckle).

Gompertz wasn’t nearly so gloomy, pointing out how difficult it was for Joan Bakewell to place arts stories in the allegedly halcyon 60s and that there is a huge appetite for arts stories on BBC online, from Ai Weiwei to Pussy Riot, via Justin Bieber. He admitted, with reference to the latter, that there was always a danger of falling into the celeb culture Thomson had referenced but felt that on the whole at the BBC they got the balance about right. (That said, he was apparently about to have half his team sacked, so one wonders how widely at the BBC this “huge appetite” was appreciated.)

Dalley picked up on the point about digital arts, saying that without doubt younger journalists took this in their stride, being very flexible about the whole range of multimedia, although she did repeat that despite their evident cleverness, too many of them have poor writing habits. Morrison described how back in the day a lot of arts journalists had made the leap from specialist arts magazines to the mainstream. As such they’d already had a lot of schooling in writing for print, albeit for smaller audiences. Will bloggers make that leap in the future? And how will they differ from their forebears?

There was an intriguing side-discussion about class. Dalley observed that the overwhelming majority of young journalists had gone to independent schools. This undoubtedly reflects a wider problem in society, but is a problem nonetheless. I wondered how it might affect the kinds of arts that are covered by the press, if at all?

There was a consensus that commercial sponsorship of the arts is pretty much essential, but that it presents some real problems for journalists covering sponsored events. It’s one thing if a sponsor had paid for (the much expensive) “ title sponsorship” – Man Booker Prize, Orange Prize etc – but otherwise, arts journalists are under no obligation to mention sponsors. That said, both Morrison and Dalley admitted that the position had changed over the years and these days journalists would often mention sponsors “as a service to the wider culture”.

Greenslade raised the issue of the key difference between general arts journalism and criticism specifically. Again there was general agreement on the fact that few critics had the kind of power they’d once had – the reputed ability to single handedly close shows. That said, a critical consensus could still have a massive impact one way or the other. Thomson pointed out that at least in classical music, critics could help build performers’ and conductors’ careers (“a healthy power”, Dalley put in).

Of course, editors love it when a critic “puts the boot in”, as with the Glyndebourne/Tara Erraught spat earlier this year – a spat with which Morrison was closely associated (whether this had backfired or should be filed under “all news is good news” was a moot point.)

There was an interesting exchange about coverage of regional (ie non-London) arts activity in the national press. The picture that emerged here was one of reduced budgets leading to travel and accommodation expenses being unsustainable (indeed, these would generally outweigh the fee by a factor of three).

On the flip side, I was struck by Dalley’s observation that the FT’s arts coverage brings in a huge amount of valuable advertising – not from arts organisations but from luxury brands who clearly see an association with the arts as some kind of validation.

Finally, perhaps the most heated bit of the discussion was around social media in general and twitter in particular. Twitter had been arguably the main weapon in two recent campaigns against arts events: the Met’s staging of John Adams’ The Death of Klighoffer and the Barbican’s allegedly racist art installation/exhibition Exhibit B (the Met, by the way, went ahead, whereas the Barbican pulled the piece. Thomson talked about the latter at some length. She felt that ultimately the press dealt with the story responsibly but that in had taken them some time to get there; initially they had been caught up in the twitter storm as much as the public. The consensus here was that twitter can generate an awful lot of “noise” – and that it’s the journalist’s job to cut through and bring clarity to complex cases.

All in all, I found the evening thoroughly engaging (not least as a music journalist-turned-blogger!) and look forward to seeing the subject returned to in another couple of years.


We’re delighted to present another guest post from Tabitha Elwes of Prospero, an advisory firm that specialises in the media and sports industries. 

The global strength of UK independent production partially reflects the success of regulatory intervention in the form of the indie quotas and Terms of Trade. However, with the sale of All3 to Discovery and Liberty and the potential merger of Endemol, Shine and Core, is that intervention still fit for purpose? Prospero has undertaken a study to identify trends and implications for the sector.

Over the last five years the turnover of UK independent production has grown by 6% a year to £2.1bn in 20131. A rise in international and multi-channel spend has offset broadly flat UK PSB commissions.

Beneath the headline a more interesting story emerges. At a label level (i.e. before looking at consolidation into “mega-indies”) value is slowly but surely leaching away from smaller companies. In 2009 the top 50 indies accounted for 63% of sector revenue, by 2013 they accounted for 79%, with just 20 labels accounting for 54% of revenue.

Market Share of Major Labels

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 11.21.22

It is the mid-tier labels that have seen the biggest growth, suggesting this may be the size that manages best to balance creative independence and scale synergies.

Average Annual Growth 2009-13

diag 2

The above analysis, however, understates the degree of change, notably the rise of the “mega-indie”. While stand-alone labels accounted for 67% of revenue in 2009, they now account for only 29%.

Share of Non-Consolidated Labels

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 11.29.15

The acquisition of labels by international broadcasters means that (post the Endemol and All3 deals) indies accounting for nearly half the sector revenue will be non- qualifying. Only 44% will be UK-owned, while 47% will be owned by US players.

% Qualifying and UK-Owned

Diag 4

Five groups will account for over 50% of sector revenue and the top ten will control nearly 70%. Only three of these top ten are controlled by UK companies.

Share of Major Groups

Diag 5

Closer examination of these top five, shows how much the sector and players have changed since 2009.

Share of Major Groups

Diag 6

In summary, if the All3 and Endemol deals go through, only half of the indie sector will be “qualifying”, less than half will be UK- owned and ten groups will account for nearly 70% of revenues. Given this, are existing indie regulations still relevant and sustainable or has the intervention achieved its purpose? Specifically,

  • Can the BBC and ITV balance indie quotas with in-house production? The BBC in particular could see its qualifying hours decline significantly.
  • With 20% of UK commissioning now from commercial multi-channels with lower quotas, does the regulatory framework need to be rebalanced?
  • Is there risk to long-term investment if nearly 50% of the sector is US-owned?

Last Monday (June 9th) saw the 6th BBC Online Briefing, outlining the organisation’s digital activity for external stakeholders and suppliers. I was lucky enough to be asked along again so as ever, I thought I’d report back (and, yes, it’s taken a week but what can I say, we’ve been busy).

Once again we were in the BBC’s storied Radio Theatre, and the event was hosted by the thoroughly charming Fiona Bruce, who seemed to be relishing this second appearance and generally got under the skin of the discussions more than last time (sometimes provocatively so, but we’ll get to that later).

BBC Online’s current priorities – BBC iPlayer, myBBC, innovation at scale, “the BBC, online” and continuous delivery  – were emblazoned on a banner by the side of the stage and in his opening key note,  BBC Future Media Director Ralph Rivera outlined these through a series of concrete examples from across “the products”, including:

  • the roll out of the Knowledge and Learning “iWonder” guides (a huge task involving the consolidation of material from over 200 existing sites)
  • long-form journalism in News (in which I gather our good friend Paul Finn of Fitzroy and Finn had a major part in designing)
  • the new iPlayer, launched in BETA in March
  • the re-tooling of “below the waterline” features such as metadata ingest
  • the ongoing development of Playlister
  • ditto with BBC Live, which will give, over the summer, “the Olympic experience” to Wimbledon, Glastonbury, the Commonwealth Games and of course the World Cup, which I gather is happening as I write

Ralph went on the discuss the importance of working with external companies. He admitted that it was still difficult for outsiders to work with the organisation, but that the development of the new roster, broken into Testing, Design and Services, was hopefully going to be a big step in improving things. He also pointed out that the external quota is “a floor, not a ceiling”; the impressive fact that last year’s external spend in digital was 30% – around £19.5 million) suggests that this is more than just rhetoric.

Robin Cramp was up next, talking though Connected Studio‘s work over the last six months (much of which, of course, we’ve reported on this blog). Robin first introduced Matt Shearer, from BBC News Labs and Chris Rush, of the agency Realise who talked us through Referend-erm, an interactive hub about the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, aimed at 16-24 year olds, where “no question is to big, to small or too stupid to ask”. I was pleased to see that the team had opted to to create an app but rather a mobile-first, fully responsive website. Matt described the work as a “speedboat project” – enabling the the team to build something outside the organisation’s usual roadmap.

Robin was joined by CS Head Adrian Woolard. The two talked through upcoming CS projects, which would include working with the Natural History on their next behemoth series, One Planet, as well as with Radio 3, building on the work already done around classical music, and the World Service. Adrian also discussed a project encouraging coding for teenagers and hinted at a new platform to enable “innovation at scale” – but couldn’t say what it was jut yet…

John Page from R&D then presented a range of work that showed just how BBC R&D was “at the heart of reinventing our industry”, looking ahead in time frames of 3, 5 and 10 years. “Broadcast as a system” had traditionally been Create>>Deliver>>Consume, but several factors were disrupting the model, including end-to-end IP, data-centrism and new devices and interfaces. R&D are currently responding to these shifts by concentrating on projects that are:

  • immersive (a project using Oculus Rift and binaural sound to present chamber performances by members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra)
  • data-centric (overlays on sports event)
  • interactive/personal/adaptive (personalised sound mixing of live events)

John also discussed the importance of collaboration with outside agencies including tech manufacturers, SMEs, digital agencies (I was pleased to see that they’ve been working with my old firm Somethin’ Else) and academia.

The final presentation of the first half came from Carmen Aitken from BBC Audiences, who came to talk not about “the death of TV” – but rather its future, based on various in-depth audience research methods. TV, however it’s consumed, continues to satisfy four key needs: sociability, sensory stimulation, synchrony and relaxation. Interestingly, research shows that most viewers generally know what they want to watch, and find it via EPG, PVR and VOD – very much in that order. As for those of us who have given up on the TV as a device entirely – well, we are still very much outliers, although it’s worth noting that we tend to use laptops to do so rather than tablets.

Carmen posited three scenarios for the future of TV, using car-based metaphors:

  • Flying Cars model – a completely disrupted landscape
  • Horse and cart model – business as usual
  • Modified car model – some hybrid of the present and new forms of consumption

She made a cogent argument for the likelihood of the last one, of course. I personally emain unconvinced, and, as I’ve said before, when thinking about the future of media generally, we’d all do well to think about Nasseem Taleb’s “turkey graph“.

After a brief break, the stage was taken by polymath Dave Birss, who’d been asked to think about what he would do if given a digital-only network to run (one couldn’t help but think of BBC Three here, but that was never made explicit). Dave set out to test a series of assumptions, in each case taking them part fairly comprehensively. These included:

  • Assumption – “The success of a programme = the number of viewers.” Dave – why couldn’t we use the number of interactions as a success measure? Wouldn’t this tell us more about how an audience really felt?
  • Assumption: “We make programmes for people sitting on the settee.” Dave – really? Tech gives us the ability to make location-based, context-appropriate content.
  • Assumption: – “Digital stuff should be an extension of TV content.” Dave – why not start “in the real world”? What about “player-written drama” or “social-guided programming”?
  • Assumption: “Content needs to be edited to fixed lengths.” Dave – why not have expandable content”, content which might initially appear as a 3 minute stub, which might expand to 90 minutes if the viewer wanted to see, say, a whole interview.

This last point was the most compelling for me, but interestingly it’s where Fiona Bruce came in, making the observation that from her experience, lengthy, un-edited interviews led to “crapitude”. Well, I think it’s a question of intention: if you go into an interview knowing that you can fix things in the edit there’s no real jeopardy – no incentive to make a good long-from interview. But speaking as podcast junkie, I have to say that the scene is pretty inspiring – and I rarely, if ever, come across a dud. (Note that Dubner & Levitt and are doing the rounds at the moment, promoting Think Like A Freak; most of what I’ve heard on the radio so far has been soundbyte-y, but not this fabulous hour-long conversation on the Tim Ferriss podcast. Most definitely not an example of crapitude.)

The session was rounded off with a Q&A with Ralph and Matthew Postgate, Controller of R&D. Questions covered included:

  • What tech gets you most excited? Matthew – broadcasting data sets and the Internet of Things; Ralph – truly interactive, immersive video.
  • What the role of UGC? Ralph – something we can draw on, but not our core mission nor a strength; “we are the signal in the noise”.
  • What are the key qualities you’re looking for in a collaborator:P Ralph – creativity, diversity, a focus on delivery – and tenacity.
  • Will the licence renewal process affect innovation? Matthew – yes, but positively, driving innovation in areas like personalisation.

Once again, it was a thoroughly engaging afternoon, and a revealing one two. Congratulations to all involved and I look forward to the next one…


We’re delighted to present a fascinating and illuminating guest post from our friends at Prospero, a strategic advisory firm, specialising in media and sports.

The currency for measuring return on investment in TV programming is well understood: eyeballs and international sales. By comparison evaluating success and ROI for digital or multiplatform commissions is considerably more difficult.

Digital or multiplatform content (MPC) is now core to broadcasters. At its most exciting it can substantially expand the TV proposition and in rare instances, such as Roar on CBBC, can outgrow its broadcast parent to build a life of its own. MPC can not only deliver new audiences, it can enhance audience engagement and stimulate advocacy. It can also open up new revenue streams.

Roles of MPC

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Evaluating the success of MPC investment is complicated. Value may be direct (on the web itself) or indirect (enhancing the TV share or building talent). Many of the potential sources of value are difficult to quantify. Even apparently direct revenues (such as advertising and sponsorship) are often packaged with TV sales, making it difficult to identify the specific contribution of digital investment.

Source of MPC Value

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A Prospero survey of MPC commissioners and producers in Europe and the US identified the following:

  • Commercial broadcasters are focussing on high reach entertainment and game shows which can be monetised. Experimentation is limited (to budgets of under £20k).
  • In the US this is even more marked with MPC spend limited to marketing budgets; the exception being big brands which adopt a studio-like 360o approach to exploitation;
  • PSBs are leading the way in experimentation and see MPC as an effective tool for delivering public value but are poor at monetisation
  • MPC is most effective when it has clear objectives (eg The Sopranos game based on knowing what happens next was aimed at keeping second screen viewers)
  • Synchronous activity is increasingly important especially in game shows (where it will become the norm) as it really enhances engagement

Current MPC Dynamics

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Broadcasters are focussing on fewer bigger projects with increasingly sophisticated approaches to how and when MPC is used. For instance, the BBC has identified four roles for MPC: to anticipate, to amplify, to extend and to bridge TV content.

BBC Four Purposes of MPC Investment

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Organisational approaches to MPC commissioning vary. Most broadcasters’ retain dedicated commissioners with specific digital skills, remits and relationships. Others, such as the BBC and YLE in Finland, have integrated MPC into genre and channel commissioning. These changes encourage measurement of success across platforms rather than in MPC “silos”.

Whatever the approach, the most successful MPC is rooted in the audience relationship with the programme; rather than in digital activity for its own sake. It requires close alignment with and understanding of the core brand. At its most effective (such as The Only Way is Essex and Million Pound Drop) MPC can help build appointment to view programming.

Over the next few years MPC will play a pivotal role helping broadcasters to build the direct consumer relationships, insight and data required to monetise audiences. Understanding which models are most effective will be essential.

Tabitha Elwes, Partner, Prospero:

Last week Sarah and I attended the second BBC Future Media Indie Briefing events of the year, once again held in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House, or New Broadcasting House as it seems it must now be called. Last spring’s event was hosted by Kirsty Wark; today it was the turn of Fiona Bruce, who was fantastically charming and smart – and a great anecdote spinner.

The first of the day’s speakers was BBC FM director, Ralph Rivera, who talked us through what his area had achieved over the last few months and where they were headed next (indeed, his presentation was simply titled “Where Next?”) Last year’s full digital service for the Olympics had inevitably led to lots of BBC teams asking for “the Olympics treatment”, and that treatment – now branded BBC Live – was rolled out this year to Glastonbury and Wimbledon. The next few months will see even more BBC Live moments, including the World Cup, the Winter Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

In the meantime, FM are still executing the 1-10-4 strategy (1 Service, 10 Products, 4 Screens) and Ralph gave several examples of success arising from that strategy, including the CBeebies app (1.4 million downloads, effectively doubling CBeebies’ traffic) and BBC Weather.

However, Ralph admitted that so much of what FM does is still a digital extension of what’s already happening of BBC Radio and TV; his ambition is still to make “new stuff” in “new ways”. They’ve already made some strides here, including iPlayer-premiered Dr Who mini-episodes and the recently launched Playlister, which adds BBC radio editorial curation to the algorithmic and social recommendation normally found in such music services as Spotify (and apparently Spotify are very happy with it).

Alerts are going to be a big thing in future developments and the iPlayer catch up window is going to expand from 7 to 30 days – which is unquestionably a major deal.

Lastly, the future vision for the production was one of “continuous delivery”: Build > Deploy > Test > Release > Build and on and on. This is all about reducing time from idea to implementation and crucially, Ralph concluded, none of this could be done without partnerships – something no doubt most of the room would be relieved to hear.

Next up was the turn of a former colleague from my days in BBC Radio and Music Online: Tim Plyming. Last time we hooked up with Tim he was doing great stuff at the British Museum, but now he’s back at the Beeb as the digital exec leading the massive World War 1 Centenary. I say “massive” because, as Tim said, the centenary is going to be “the biggest season the BBC has ever done”, following WW1 in “real time” across 4 years.

At its heart the season is going to be about personal and locational connection to the war, and will be driven by online (the centenary has a recently relaunched website). Previous views of this war have tended to look at it through a particular prism, portraying it as four solid years of horrendous trench warfare. But there’s so much more to it than that, and digital only content will, over the next few months and years, start to tell rather different stories, not least about life on the home front (it was new to Sarah and I that Brighton Pavilion, just down the road from us, was used for treating injured servicemen).

And once again, partnerships were going to be key to making this successful. There’s already one up and running with the Imperial War Museum: “WWI at Home” which will eventually be home to over 1500 individual stories.

The opening session concluded with a presentation from BBC Audiences, represented by Carmen Aitken, Head of Audiences and Research Manager Simon Kendrick. Here are some of the headlines from their presentation:

  • 30% of UK homes has 5 or more connected devices.
  • 55% of digital consumers still access online only on a desktop PC (so rumours of the PC’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it seems)
  • The screen is not the biggest determinator of choice. Actually it’s more likely a combination of location, mood and content
  • “Time Rules All”; understanding the shape of people’s day is crucial to understanding their media use.
  • Upcoming demographic change meant that yes, the audience would be getting older – but there is going to be a lot more young media consumers too.
  • Kids: always online, always multitasking, on mobiles, but also – still watching TV and still reading books, apparently
  • (I was struck – though hardly surprised – that mostly what kids do on tablets is play games.)
  • Developers need to make stuff simple: don’t make things challenging
  • Despite all this, kids apparently aren’t going to have very different “basic human needs” from their predecessors (something I’m not so sure about, but that’s another issue.)

The pair took questions from the audience, with Sarah getting straight in with a question about how they arrived at audience insight. The answer it seems, is through a whole host of measurement methodologies.

We had a short break, then it was the turn of the Connected Studio team, with whom we’ve been working pretty closely over the last year, one way and another. The presentation opened with Robin Cramp who talked us through the 7 projects that are going through to production from the Build Studio phase (remember: 5 had been promised, so delivery is outstripping expectation). The projects included:

  • Perceptive Audio App, made by Aardman and Profero
  • Predicto Machino, from Leeds’ MadeByPi
  • EEZL, by Peekabu in Edinburgh
  • Virtual Crowd, also from MadeByPi
  • Pocket Pundit, from Aerian, Wiltshire

sportTwo things struck me about the projects: firstly, and mostimportantly, I really don’t believe these projects would have arisen from “business as usual”. And secondly, it’s great to see the geographical spread of the companies whose work is going through.

We were also given a couple of demonstrations. John Davison of Kanoti talked about the HTML5 “photographic comic” they developed for Inside No 9 at the Comedy Lab. And Matt Shearer from BBC News presented the work done at the BBC News Labs. #newsHACK was a 2-day event held at Shoreditch Town Hall that brought together 10 news organisations and 6 universities, and opened up APIs on over 400,000 articles. The event has led to collaborations with both Sky News and the Financial Times and a follow up is planned for spring.


Connected Studio’s chief, Adrian Woolard, finished up the CS presentation with a round up of some of the lessons learned, some examples of other people doing well in this space, principally because they are allowed to fail (including govUK and Makeshift), and finally a look at some upcoming initiatives, including a News Archive CS in Northern Ireland, a Classical Music CS in Wales, #newsHACK 2, more studio sprints and the relaunch of the CS online presence.

From our point of view, as strong supporters of Connected Studio, it’s great to see it take centre stage at this event once again.

Finally, Ralph took the stage again, this time with Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development, to take questions from the audience. I’m afraid I got in with the second Turner Hopkins question of the day. I wanted to know about the fate of the Digital Public Space in all of this – the answer to which seems to be that rather than an initiative in its own right, its become a kind of defining ethos behind a lot of other BBC FM activity, from CS to the WWI season.

All in all, another fine event, and a great window on the work BBC FM is doing with the external sector. Congratulations to all those who put in the evident hard work to pull it off.